BY GEOFREY HILL
The world of startups has proven that there are nearly infinite ways to get work done. Startups use everything from the old guard of productivity software, like Microsoft Office, to creating fully custom built tools. Most of the time, startups use a collection of tools to meet their unique business and operational needs. At Neverware, we took an organic approach to locating and integrating these tools into our company. Below is the collection of tools that works for us, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.
All roads at Neverware lead to Salesforce. Neverware uses Salesforce as our CRM and core of operations. Every facet of our organization ties into the platform, from standard sales operations to quality assurance. It houses all of our customer data, which overtime has developed into a multitude of custom fields, such as usage history and license information. We also try to have any new tools integrate with Salesforce, to allow us the best data integrity. Salesforce is a major player in the CRM space and is priced accordingly, but we’ve found that there’s no substitute for the system, and are willing to pay for the service. Not a day goes by that Salesforce doesn't make our work lives easier and more effective.
We had a need to make mobile access to Salesforce better. New York City schools are veritable faraday cages, making cellular data very poor. This poor connectivity with SalesForce One app was ultimately too inconsistent for our field technicians to use effectively. This led us to use FormAssembly, a tool that allows you to make web-page-based forms that integrate with SalesForce. With this tool, we built custom forms for our techs with all the info they need to be effective. It loads one time as an entire website, so the technicians could load it before going into the school, guaranteeing access to the data when they need it. With the success of this on site form, we expanded our use of FormAssembly and use it many other areas of our organization, such as customer satisfaction surveys and our CloudReady free trial program. We’ve found it incredibly effective for ensuring that data isn’t lost.
Asana is a team collaboration tool with a deadly simple interface, allowing for the effortless sharing of task and projects. Asana is of the Software as a Service model SaaS , so no pesky installs. SaaS is the term used to describe any subscription based software that is hosted, many of the tools on this list are SaaS.The basic setup is a collaborative to-do list, where you can assign tasks to members of your team as one-off assignments or as part of a larger project.
The interface has ultimately been the key to our use of Asana. We have found it very easy to use for every level of technical expertise. Across the company, we receive hundreds of emails a day. Rather than requiring another layer of emails to track projects and define work roles, we can track all the progress of important initiatives on one shared interface. While it does not integrate with SalesForce, we use our Google for Work accounts as credentials. It has been so well received that many Neverware employees use Asana at home.
Google Apps for Business is better known by its parts: Gmail, Drive, Google Docs, and the rest of the Google productivity suite. For a small business or startup, Google apps have become ubiquitous. They are inexpensive, have near perfect uptime and allow for seamless collaboration. This collection of tools is critical to our daily operations, from internal emails, emails from our customers, or collaborating on documents (such as this blog post!). While we have some power users who still fall back to the old comforts of Excel (I am looking at you, Business Operations), it is only done for one-off projects. Everything else we do is on Google Apps. Google Apps is also a SaaS service, so many of our employees use it seamlessly when we work from home or while visiting a school. The longer I work with it, the more I question why all organizations, of every size, don't use cloud based or SaaS tools like Google Apps or Office 365.
No matter how good a product we have, our customers still have some problems and keeping track of the issues in email is doesn’t cut it. Neverware elected to go with one of the most well established customer support software providers, Zendesk. Zendesk’s best feature is that it stays out of your way. It stores requests in a simple email style that is familiar and easy to use. Things don't seem to get lost and it ties in with SalesForce very well. One feature of special note, is Zendesk allows you to record phone calls that come into the support line. This makes collecting information easy and allows for greater oversight of service desk employees. We also have Zendesk send satisfaction emails at the close of every ticket so we can be sure we are meeting our customers' needs.
Documentation is often neglected in startups, as processes and specifications change so rapidly. Documentation takes time and is always in such short supply, but we’ve found that lack of documentation causes major roadblocks in our effectiveness, as key information is lost. We use Atlassian’s Confluence as our internal tool for documentation. Confluence is easy to use, but we have found it hard to use on mobile, and search is less helpful than we would like. It also doesn’t allow for concurrent editing, which generally means we use Confluence for static, wiki-type articles and reserve dynamic content for Google Drive.
We were recommended this product when the need arose for a better way of doing performance evaluations. One key feature is 360 reviews, which allows employees to submit anonymous comment on employees. It has been a valuable tool in getting the most from our employees in that we have a much more systematic process for review. Much like Zendesk, it does a good job of not getting in the user's way.
Hiring people is really hard, and one of the hardest parts is approaching it in a systematic and repeatable way so we can always get the best candidates. Resumator serves as hub of communication, posting, and scoring for our job candidates. It keeps us systematic and lets us know if our posting is getting traction and from where. It is a great tool that has helped us bring in some very talented people. However, Resumator has rebranded as Jazz. While the tool is very much the same, the name is just awful.
This is the our newest tool. In the past, we used Hipchat, but found it not a good fit for our organization with lack of archiving and poor integration with outside applications. Slack allows team members to form chat groups so they can stay in constant communication without verbally interrupting each other. This is primarily used by our development team but its use is slowly creeping to other areas of the organization. We share information with the integration with Google Drive, as well as track bug progress through a plug-in with github.
Are what we’re using the best tools? We’ve found a collection that works for us now and we operate with an open mind as we scale. Our early lessons are that integration and SaaS are key components in a useful tool, and while free is good, you get what you pay for. In the end, we strive to be agile and experimental in our processes and be constantly improving. A commitment to always being better is part of our success. If you have any suggestions on things we might try, or what worked for you, let us know!